According to Wikipedia, a harbour master is “an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbour or port in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbour and the correct operation of the port facilities.” Now, put that into the context of the largest port in Canada — 640 kilometres of shoreline, 27 major marine cargo terminals with over 3,100 deep-sea vessel visits annually and don’t forget about the domestic tug and barge operations, the SeaBus, recreational vessels and one of the largest float plane airports in the world. According to Chris Wellstood, Director of Marine Operations and Security as well as Harbour Master for Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the job is “all that and a bit more.”
BCSN: Describe the steps in your career that have led to your current position.
CW: I was trained as an officer and an engineer in the Netherlands and started
my maritime career sailing all over the world on semi-submersible, heavy-lift deep-sea vessels. I later moved to the dredging and offshore industries where I became a dynamic positioning officer on the SSCV Thialf, one of the largest self-propelled floating crane vessels in the world, capable of tandem lifting 14,200 tons.
While I enjoyed working at sea and travelling to many different ports around the world, I eventually came to the decision that I didn’t want to be a seafarer for the rest of my career so I went back to school. I obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree in Maritime Sciences from the Maritime Institute “De Ruyter,” HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen, the Netherlands and then received a Master of Science Degree in Maintenance and Safety Management from the University of Bradford in the U.K.
In the late 1990s, I started as a management trainee with SMIT International, a division of Boskalis, one of the largest dredging and hydraulic engineering companies in the world. I worked within marine salvage, marine transportation, harbour towage, and oil and gas terminal markets all over the world and in various management positions. My responsibilities usually included looking at optimization of operations, including efficiency improvements and restructuring.
My last position was as General Manager for SMIT’s operations on the West Coast of Canada. This was a few years after SMIT had acquired RivTow and I was brought in to bring the business and assets more in line with SMIT’s corporate profile. That included selling off many assets to clear the way for a focus on harbour towage. We also bought Minette Bay Ship Docking in Prince Rupert during that time and, again, my job was to align the assets and operations.